Saturday, December 17, 2011


President Barack Obama said on Wednesday he wanted answers to the environmental questions about the Keystone XL pipeline, whose delay overshadowed a new U.S.-Canadian border agreement announced on Wednesday. 
 Keystone XL Pipeline fight intensifies

The two-month payroll tax break extension bill passed by the Senate on Saturday included language that would make Obama decide within 60 days whether TransCanada Corp's 700,000 barrel-a-day Keystone XL oil sands pipeline is in the country's national interest.
But the U.S. State Department, which must approve the cross-border project, has said it will not be rushed into a decision before it has time to consider the environmental impact of alternative routes. That could leave Obama room to approve the project in principle but still keep construction at bay.
"This bill will stop President Obama's delaying tactics," said Senator Richard Lugar, who had introduced the measure to speed up a decision on the pipeline. "This is a tremendous victory for our security and for creating jobs."
The State Department in November delayed a decision on the line until after the 2012 presidential election, citing the need to study alternative routes in Nebraska where the proposed route would cross one of the country's largest aquifers.
An Obama administration official who briefed reporters said the State Department would "almost certainly" have to turn down an approval because there would not be enough time to complete its review of alternate pipeline routes through Nebraska's fragile Sand Hills region.
An energy policy analyst said the State Department's November ruling could be a large factor in Obama's decision.
"The foundation for plausible deniability has been laid already," said Kevin Book, an analyst at ClearView Energy Partners in Washington.
"The Obama administration has already said they won't be rushed, but they don't have to rush to say no, either."

Even if Obama ended up approving the line, it would not survive the court process, Daniel Weiss, of the Center for American Progress, said on Friday.
If Obama decides against the line before the election, he could face criticism from Republicans in the campaign that he gave up an opportunity to provide thousands of jobs.

And if the price of oil is high next summer, he could also face criticism that he did not do enough to fight energy prices. But environmentalists are part of Obama's political base and activists say oil sands petroleum emits more greenhouse gases than average crude oils.
Russ Girling, TransCanada's president and chief executive, said on Saturday his company would do whatever is necessary if the bill is passed and the 60-day deadline comes into effect to make sure the project is approved. The Republican-led House of Representatives is expected to vote on the bill early next week.
"We will continue to focus our efforts on collaborating with Nebraska's Department of Environmental Quality, the state and the federal State Department on an alternative route that avoids Nebraska's Sand Hills," Girling said in a release.
Environmentalists also geared up for a battle. "We're of course ready to fight like heck," Bill McKibben, who led protests at the White House in November, said in a note to supporters on Saturday.
(Editing by Todd Eastham)

    Friday, December 16, 2011

    Did you pray for the late Christopher Hitchens -- arrogant, adamant atheist?

    Verne Strickland Blogmaster / December 16, 2011
    Did you pray for Christopher Hitchens?
    By Cathy Lynn Grossman, USA TODAY
    10:38 AM
    By Christian Witken
    Christopher Hitchens, one of the world's most caustic atheists, died Thursday night, but it is doubtful the debate over his fate -- heaven or dust or worse -- died with him.

    The British-born essayist and author of God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, died at as 62 from esophageal cancer. The diagnosis in June 2010, slowed, but didn't still, his publishing in Vanity Fair, The Atlantic and Slate and his public appearance schedule as he roamed the country debunking religion.

    Slate calls him an "iconclast and public intellectual" and notes in his last published work, just days ago for Vanity Fair, he had hoped he would be conscious to the end...
    to nurture that little flame of curiosity and defiance: willing to play out the string to the end and wishing to be spared nothing that properly belongs to a life span.
    Last August, he told The Atlantic that no one should believe any word that might be circulated claiming he called on God with his last breaths.
    The entity making such a remark might be a raving, terrified person whose cancer has spread to the brain. I can't guarantee that such an entity wouldn't make such a ridiculous remark. But no one recognizable as myself would ever make such a ridiculous remark.
    The British magazine Freethinker called Hitchens "ferocious."
    Still, Hitchens was gracious about campaigns to pray for him. Rod Dreher, then at,
    ... praying for his healing, body and soul. Somehow, I doubt the author of God Is Not Great would object; cancer has a way of humbling one in this regard. Anyway, he suffers, and has more to suffer, and needs us to stand with him in whatever way we can.
    Then there was Everybody Pray for Christopher Hitchens Day in September 2010.

    An Associated Press reporter who saw Hitchens, thin and frail that month, reported that he was gracious about the prayers, calling the efforts "nice'" but fruitless as he rebuffed the idea of heaven.

    Karen Spears Zacharias, guest blogging at Christianity Today on Her.meneutics, disagreed with Hitchens' spurning redemption for himself, but, she asks...
    Why are so many people campaigning for Hitch's salvation? Is it because his salvation would in some disingenuous way affirm their own? Hitchens isn't fooled. He knows that for the Christian community, he's the Big Fish. Netting him would be like hauling in Jonah's whale. The salvation of Christopher Hitchens would get widespread play in New York City and far across the Atlantic. There would be a media feeding frenzy of apologists and bobble-head Christians, all yammering about the rejoicing in heaven over this one soul.
    There is no report of last words to the Lord. There is no frenzy of rejoicing -- among atheists who mourn a champion and believers who mourn him as well.

    Douglas Wilson of Christianity Today, who did frequent debates with Hitchens, writes:
    Christopher Hitchens was baptized in his infancy, and his name means "Christ-bearer." This created an enormous burden that he tried to shake off his entire life. No creature can ever succeed in doing this. But sometimes, in the kindness of God, such failures can have a gracious twist at the end. We therefore commend Christopher to the Judge of the whole earth, who will certainly do right...

    Iran claims to extract data from U.S. drone. May make clones. Obama "asks" for return of craft.

    Verne Strickland Blogmaster / December 16, 2011

    AFP/Getty Images - Iranian experts are in the final stages of
    recovering data from the U.S. surveillance drone captured by the
    country’s armed forces, state TV reported Monday.

    President Obama is pressing his request that Iran return the U.S. surveillance drone captured by the country's armed forces. (Dec. 12)
    President Obama is pressing his request that Iran 
    return the U.S. surveillance drone captured by the 
    country's armed forces. (Dec. 12)

    Iran will not return a U.S. surveillance drone captured by its armed forces, a senior commander of the country's elite Revolutionary Guard Corps said Sunday. (Dec. 11)
    Iran will not return a U.S. surveillance drone captured
    by its armed forces, a senior commander of the country's
    elite Revolutionary Guard Corps said. 

    Parviz Sorouri, a key member of the Iranian parliament’s national security and foreign policy committee, told state television that the extracted information will be used to sue the United States over the “invasion” by the unmanned aircraft.

    He said Iran will “soon” start to reproduce the drone after a process of reverse engineering, which is nearly finished. “In the near future, we will be able to mass-produce it. . . . Iranian engineers will soon build an aircraft superior to the American [drone] using reverse engineering,” Sorouri was quoted as saying.
    Sorouri also said the country’s armed forces will soon conduct an exercise on closing the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow waterway between the Gulf of Oman and the oil-rich Persian Gulf.

    Noting the strategic importance of the strait, he said, “We will hold a military maneuver on how to close the Strait of Hormuz soon,” according to the Iranian Students’ News Agency. “If the world wants to make the region insecure, we will make the world insecure.”

    Iranian military officials declined to comment on the remark. The oil shipped through the strait accounts for about 17 percent of oil traded worldwide and roughly a third of all oil traded by sea.

    At a news conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, Obama was asked if he was concerned that Iran would be able to weaken U.S. national security by obtaining intelligence from the downed drone.

    “I’m not going to comment on intelligence matters that are classified,” Obama responded. “We have asked for it back. We’ll see how the Iranians respond.”

    Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, in separate comments, said that the United States had made a formal request that the drone be returned. She added: “Given Iran’s behavior to date, we do not expect them to comply.”

    U.S. officials have offered differing perspectives on whether the drone could be exploited for technological secrets. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, who previously directed the CIA, said the answer partly depends on the condition of the wreckage.

    “It’s a little difficult to know, just frankly, how much they’re going to be able to get from having obtained those parts,” Panetta told reporters aboard a military aircraft. “I don’t know the condition of those parts.”

    A commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, which claimed a key role in bringing down the drone, said Sunday that Iran would not return the stealth aircraft.

    Iranian state TV broadcast video of the drone on Thursday. Military officials were shown inspecting what Iran said was the RQ-170 Sentinel drone.

    The Pentagon has acknowledged that a U.S. drone was lost the week before Iran’s initial Dec. 4 announcement, supposedly while flying a mission over western Afghanistan. U.S. officials have confirmed that the drone belonged to the CIA.

    Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, the U.S. Air Force chief of staff, said in a television interview last week that “there is the potential for reverse engineering, clearly.” But other analysts said it would be difficult to duplicate the manufacturing know-how needed to build a clone of the RQ-170, and that any data on board the aircraft was likely to be encrypted and of little use to an adversary.

    Iran says it forced the drone to land about 140 miles into its territory by using “cyber warfare methods.” U.S. officials dispute this, saying the aircraft apparently malfunctioned.

    Staff writers William Branigin and Joby Warrick in Washington and Craig M. Whitlock, traveling with Panetta, contributed to this report.


     Verne Strickland Blogmaster / December 16, 2011

    NC Dems warming to Obama? (Politico)
    Per the White House pool report released just a few moments ago, "North Carolina Congressmen Mike McIntyre, David Price and Heath Shuler accompanied the president on Air Force One to Ft. Bragg."

    Barack Obama is seen greeting an audience member at North Carolina State University on Sept. 14. |AP Photo
    Most members of Congress dodged Obama during 
    his last visit to North Carolina. | AP Photo

    Despite President Barack Obama’s sagging poll ratings, top Democratic leaders from around the country insist they’d love for him to visit. From state party chairmen to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, the message remains remarkably consistent: No one views the president as a political liability.

    Roughly a year out from the 2012 presidential election, that may be true. But already, as Obama’s most recent forays into battleground states indicate, there are growing signs that many Democratic politicians don’t want to get too close to him, either.

    In trips to Michigan, North Carolina and Pennsylvania — all states that he carried in 2008 — members of Congress were notably missing from the president’s side. Though none came out and said they were deliberately avoiding him, they didn’t have to: Dodging a presidential candidate who’s riding low in the polls is a time-honored political practice.

    The past three elections — the Sept. 13 House special elections in New York and Nevada and the Oct. 4 West Virginia gubernatorial special election — haven’t done much to inspire confidence about Obama’s ability to help the entire ticket: The president was unquestionably an anchor on the Democratic nominees in each race.

    For Obama, who has led a charmed political life since bursting onto the national stage in 2004 — he was in high demand on the campaign trail even before he won his Senate seat that year — it’s a harbinger of a humbling election year to come.

    In North Carolina, only Sen. Kay Hagan, who isn’t up for reelection until 2014, and veteran Rep. Mel Watt, who represents a majority black district, appeared with the president. The state’s six other Democratic House members took a pass, offering a variety of excuses.

    “[Obama] may end up being Walter Mondale of 1984,” said Raleigh-based Democratic strategist Brad Crone, recalling that the only elected official who risked being seen with the party’s nominee that year was the longtime agriculture commissioner.

    When Obama visited Pittsburgh, Pa., two weeks ago, the story was much the same — no members of Congress to be found. Though two of southwestern Pennsylvania’s three Democratic congressmen greeted the president on the airport tarmac, neither of them attended any of the public events Obama held, choosing instead to return to Washington.

    “Southwest Pennsylvania has become over time a difficult place for Democrats because of the perception they are left of center,” said T.J. Rooney, a former Pennsylvania Democratic Party chairman and state legislator.

    Some Democrats believe that attempts to keep a distance from the president can only backfire. Former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell called it “political idiocy” for Democrats to purposefully avoid a president from their own party.

    Wednesday, December 14, 2011


    Duplin Expo
    Mike appears to be telling this crowd to stop chanting
    Republican slogans. Sorry the photo is a bit blurred.
    It was free. You get what you pay for.

    By Verne Strickland / December 14, 2011

    One of my most adorable (I did not say ‘adoring) fans told me in an email recently that I am “terminally partisan” or something like that. I can’t remember the exact words. I did not see that as an insult, but as a badge of honor.

    This gentleman, who claims he’s one of the two people who regularly read my vapid drivel (my words) says I should just leave Mike McIntyre alone.

    But why? Mike is such a natural foil and fop – before an election, during a campaign, and even after an improbable win – that I, an inveterate conservative punster and renegade, cannot resist poking sport at the guy.

    I ask again – why? Because, since my political schooling at the knee of Jesse Helms, one of my greatest pleasures in life has been skewering liberals, atheists, effete poseurs, cynics, Mormons with more than six wives, and most of all – phony politicians. 

    Mike may fit into one or more of those categories, although I wouldn’t want to fathom a guess as to which ones might apply. I am fairly certain about at least one of them.

    I used to also delight in trashing communists and communism, although I’ve become less fascinated by them since the rise of the upwardly mobile and infinitely more threatening radical Muslim hordes of the world, who have proven their affinity for insufferable arrogance, ignorance, ambition, deceit, killing, persecution of women and Christians, and world domination. 

    Some things do change, don’t they? But not Mike. We’ll soon get to see the Robeson County flash – now an excessively incumbent insider Democrat – as he limbers up for another go at it. 

    He’ll be back with the same old schtick – talking like Jesse Helms when he’s in the district, but acting like Nancy Pelosi’s lapdog when he’s on the Hill.

    Can Mike be convinced that the Seventh doesn’t need his “service” anymore? 

    Conservative GOP candidate Ilario Pantano, gearing up for a return match with the Mikemeister, will have plenty to say about that. And, after almost taking McIntyre down for the count in 2010, he looms as an even more formidable challenger when the starting gun sounds for 2012.

    It promises be the shot heard from Leland to Lumberton. Can't wait.

    Tuesday, December 13, 2011


    Published December 13, 2011
    | Associated Press

    Boehner With GOP leaders

    December 13, 2011: House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, 
    center, accompanied by fellow Republican leaders, meets with 
    reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP)
    Defiant Republicans pushed legislation through the House Tuesday night that would keep alive Social Security payroll tax cuts for some 160 million Americans at President Barack Obama's request -- but also would require construction of a Canada-to-Texas oil pipeline that has sparked a White House veto threat.
    Passage, on a largely party-line vote of 234-193, sent the measure toward its certain demise in the Democratic-controlled Senate, triggering the final partisan showdown of a remarkably quarrelsome year of divided government.
    The legislation "extends the payroll tax relief, extends and reforms unemployment insurance and protects Social Security -- without job-killing tax hikes," Republican House Speaker John Boehner declared after the measure had cleared.
    Referring to the controversy over the Keystone XL pipeline, he added, "Our bill includes sensible, bipartisan measures to help the private sector create jobs."
    On a long day of finger pointing, however, House Democrats accused Republicans of protecting "millionaires and billionaires, `' and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., derided the GOP-backed pipeline provision as "ideological candy" for the tea party-set.
    After the House vote, the White House urged Congress on in finishing work on extending the tax cuts and jobless aid. Press Secretary Jay Carney issued a statement that didn't mention the pipeline but renewed Obama's insistence that the legislation be paid for, at least in part, by "asking the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share" in higher tax levies.
    Lawmakers "cannot go on vacation before agreeing to prevent a tax hike on 160 million Americans and extending unemployment insurance," he said.
    Republicans mocked Obama's objections to their version of the bill.
    "Mr. President, we can't wait," said House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia, employing a refrain the White House often uses to criticize Republicans for failing to take steps to improve an economy struggling to recover from the worst recession in decades.
    Voting in favor of the legislation were 224 Republicans and 10 Democrats, while 179 Democrats and 14 Republicans opposed it.
    At its core, the measure did include key parts of the jobs program that Obama asked Congress to approve in September.
    The Social Security payroll tax cuts approved a year ago to help stimulate the economy would be extended through 2012, avoiding a loss of take-home income for wage-earners. An expiring program of unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless would remain in place, although at reduced levels that the administration said would cut off aid for 3.3 million.
    A third major component would avert a threatened 27 percent cut in payments to doctors who treat Medicare patients, a provision Republicans added to appeal to conservatives but one that the White House and Democrats embrace, too.
    While the tax and unemployment provisions were less generous than Obama sought, he and Republicans clashed principally over steps to cover the estimated $180 billion cost of the measure, and on the proposed 1,700-mile Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada through environmentally sensitive terrain in Nebraska to the Texas Gulf Coast.
    Obama recently delayed a decision on granting a permit for the pipeline until after the 2012 election.
    The payroll tax legislation was one of three major bills that Congress was struggling to finish before adjourning for the year, and by far the most contentious.
    A measure covering Pentagon spending was ready for passage, and, separately, negotiators said they were close to a deal on a $1 trillion measure to fund most government agencies through the end of the budget year.
    That deal was in limbo, though, with Obama and congressional Democrats using it as leverage to keep House Republicans at the table negotiating a final compromise on the tax and unemployment measure.
    It was the final showdown of a year that once brought the government to the brink of a shutdown and also pushed the Treasury to the cusp of a first-ever default.
    Those confrontations produced last-minute compromises.This time, leaders in both parties stressed a desire to renew the unemployment tax cuts and jobless benefits that are at the core of Obama's jobs program.
    Obama and most Democrats favor an income surtax on million-dollar earners to pay for extending the Social Security tax cut, but Republicans oppose that, saying it is a violation of their pledge not to raise taxes.
    Republicans drew attention at every turn to the pipeline, which is backed by some lawmakers in the president's party as well as by the blue-collar unions representing plumbers, pipefitters, electricians, carpenters and construction workers.

    Estimates of the jobs that would be produced by pipeline construction vary widely but are in the thousands in a time of high national unemployment. The State Department estimated the total at about 6,000; project manager TransCanada put it at 20,000 directly, and Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., said in debate on the House floor it was more than 100,000.
    Rep. Eliot Engel, a New York Democrat, said he had an open mind about the pipeline but also said it had no legitimate role in the payroll tax bill. Republicans argued otherwise.
    Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan, the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said the pipeline's construction would allow Canada to send one million barrels of oil a day into the United States, lessening domestic reliance on imports.
    He said Canadian development of a pipeline is a certainty, and lawmakers needed to decide whether they wanted it to end up in the United States or "someplace like China."

      Monday, December 12, 2011

      Jared Loughner -- a "textbook" case paranoid schizophrenic -- and why that really matters.

      Verne Strickland: A personal story about family and the toll of paranoid schizophrenia:

      Paranoid schizophrenia has visited my close relatives at least twice. It attacked my mother's lovely younger sister Anne during her early twenties in Baltimore. She spent the rest of her life in mental wards, and she died there, a broken, lonely woman old beyond her years.

      It attacked my younger brother Bruce -- also in his twenties, which is typical -- and drove him mad. He lost his wife, a promising career in art, and his bright, lively mind. He spent the rest of his ruined life fighting away the taunting voices that wouldn't stop. He died in a rest home at 52. All of our family suffered with him.

      So I have known schizophrenia up close and personal. It's ugly and incurable and is a wrecker of lives. It seems to be genetically linked. Any of your loved ones who are targeted may be be reduced to an emotional shell. Violence might be lurking in their future -- especially if prescribed medicines are missed.

      Paranoid schizophrenia makes monsters of people like Jared Lee Loughner. It is sheer cruelty and a miscarriage of justice to prop his mind up with chemicals so he can be imprisoned or killed. He is not responsible for his acts, as reprehensible as they may be. He should be deemed not guilty by reason of insanity.

      The article I am presenting here is one of the most lucid treatments of the ravages of this disease that I have read in recent years. People like Loughner, to most, have no redeeming virtues, garner no sympathy, and will likely be given no cogent defense.

      They are hard to understand, and harder to love. But they do not belong in a courtroom being tried for murder.

      Tuesday, Jan 11, 2011 8:01 PM Eastern Standard Time
      Jared Loughner
      Jared Loughner

      It wasn’t long after news of the Tucson, Ariz., tragedy broke that the words “paranoid schizophrenic” entered the conversation. Armchair psychiatrists across the country looked at Jared Loughner — 22, history of antisocial behavior, with a cache of rambling YouTube videos on government mind control — and diagnosed him. But is there any truth to this? And if so, how does it help make sense of his horrific actions?

      To try and untangle the influences that might lead one lone gunman to fire his Glock at a political rally, we turned to Dr. E. Fuller Torrey, respected psychiatrist and one of the foremost experts on paranoid schizophrenics. Torrey has written several books on the mental illness, including the bestselling classic “Surviving Schizophrenia.” He is founder of the Treatment Advocacy Center in Virginia, a national nonprofit for the mentally ill.

      Quite early in the news cycle, the media more or less diagnosed Jared Loughner as paranoid schizophrenic. Do you think that’s accurate?
      Sarah Hepola is an editor at Salon.  
      Topics:, , ,


      By Verne Strickland:

      Ilario Pantano's launch of his new book drew a standing room only crowd last week at Barnes & Noble's Mayfaire location in Wilmington. It was an exciting send-off for this compelling personal story of North Carolina's favorite Marine.

      Ilario himself wrote a wonderful lead-in to this USA DOT COM feature about the event, and I pitched in with some of the comments I was able to record with Pantano supporters who were in line to meet their hero, a hard-charging candidate for the U.S. Congress from the Seventh District.

      Here is Ilario's comment about the book-signing event, with some great personal revelations:

      "ICYMI: The Wilmington Book signing event was SOLD OUT! All kinds of folks gathered for an opportunity to share the gift of the gospel in a non-traditional (retail) environment. A Chaplain from my time on the New Hanover County Sheriff’s office was there as well as one of my men from Iraq! “Doc” introduced himself to me while he was getting books signed. You see “Doc” was not planning on being in the store, in fact he had just relocated back to Camp Lejeune from California a few days ago. He heard my voice booming while he was shopping for toys for his daughter, and low and behold, two WARLORDS (E co/2nd BN/2 Mar/2 Mar div) were reunited 7 years after the war.

      "Also, friends had just returned from Washington DC, where the story of my exoneration through scientific Autopsy evidence was on the COVER of the WASHINGTON TIMES."

      "Many of you who read/commented on this story have been stunned that our local NC media has completely ignored this newsworthy story. As my friend Rep. Allen West says, “you don’t get FLAK, unless you are over the target.” Friends, when you become a threat to the liberal establishment, you are treated “differently” and that is a sad fact of “journalism” today. Regardless, God provides us so many blessings, and even his challenges are to bring us closer to him. I hope we can all make the time to thank him with our whole heart. Let’s not forget that HE is the REASON for the SEASON."
      Among the crowd of well-wishers at the book signing was Merry Pantano -- Ilario's Mother:

      Do you think this guy is going to autograph your book?
      Well I certainly hope so. Actually it's not for me, but for a friend.
      This is a great crowd tonight. 
      Yes. I always enjoy listening to Ilario speak to a group like this, because it was very painful for him to go back and write this book. He just had to return and visit so many dark places. It's good to see that he can talk about it and get it out of his system. And I think it's good for Americans to understand what it's like to fight for our freedom.
      You're a wonderful Mama. Most of us haven't been to war, and we learn about the trauma through a warrior like your son.
      I'm very proud of him.


       Hi, what's your name?
      Chris Thorpe.
      Why are you here tonight?
      To support Ilario, my friend and brother in Christ. I came to see him when he was baptized, and just wanted to be here at his book-signing. It's been standing-room only in the first hour or so. 
      How did you first come to know Ilario?
      Actually through CrossFit Wilmington. Clint Horsley at the gym introduced me to Ilario, and I've enjoyed seeing him there. He has a loving heart, and demonstrates that constantly to people.

      Could I get a brief interview with you?
      Sure. I'm Joyce Britt. I'm here to come out and support Ilario Pantano. I drove over from Bladen County. I'm part of the Young Republicans. He came and spoke at some of our meetings, and is a really good man. I'm going to buy two of his books. 
      What do you like about him -- his policies, his character, for example?
      I think the thing I like most about him is that he's a Christian. I'm not worried about him when he gets to Congress, because he is going to make decisions based on Biblical principles, and what's right.
      Well God bless you and thanks very much.

      Ilario Pantano